NEW DELHI: Around 300 Dalits from Gujarat’s Una town plan to convert to Buddhism on Sunday to protest against discrimination and caste-based violence.
Among those converting are persons who were assaulted in Una by cow vigilantes in July 2016, allegedly for skinning dead cattle.Forms carrying the details of the Dalits and their consent to converting to Buddhism were submitted to the district administration, but Dalits in the region say the number of those converting would be much higher because a lot of people will give their consent for conversion on Sunday, a day ahead of Buddha Purnima.
The conversion ceremony is to be held at Mota Samdhiya village in Gujarat’s Gir Somnath district. Sarvariya Kantik, who is from the village, told TNIE that thousands of people would be converting. Kantik, whose uncle and brothers were allegedly attacked by cow vigilantes in July 2016, said, “Our whole village has decided to embrace Buddhism and there will be many others from neighbouring villages who will join us.”
Kantik said after the attack, Dalits were promised that the community’s condition would improve, but nothing had changed. “We were assaulted and insulted publicly. At that time, the government, including then CM Anandi Patel, made several promises to us. The promises included constitution of special courts to try cases of discrimination against Dalits, fast-tracking of such cases, and creating job opportunities for us, but none have been fulfilled.”
The flogging incident sparked nationwide outrage.
Buddhist monks have been invited to preside over Sunday’s event. However, not many politicians have been invited. “We have called very few local politicians. We have invited legislator Jignesh Mewani, but we don’t know if he will come,” Kanti said.
When Express contacted Mewani, his aide said Mewani was in Karnataka and won’t be able to attend the function.
Vasram Sarvaiya, who was flogged and paraded through Una, said he and many others were embracing Buddhism because Hinduism did not accept them as its own. “Our leader Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar chose Buddhism as the religion where there was no discrimination. We are following Babasaheb.”
Dalit thinker Chandra Bhan Prasad said the mass conversion would send a strong message and more such conversions might take place if “radicalised Hindus” continued to discriminate against Dalits. “This is the beginning of a Quit Hinduism movement, and if upper caste Hindus continue to chase Dalits away, the count of Hindus would come down significantly.” Badri Narayan, professor at JNU’s School of Social Sciences, said all should take note of the mass conversion and try to take corrective measures.